The weight-loss reality television show, The Biggest Loser, just crowned it’s latest winner.
24-year-old Rachel Frederickson lost 155 pounds and took home the honor of being named The Biggest Loser.
By all accounts that should be measured as a success, should it not?
After all, she joined the reality show to lose a massive amount of weight… and she did.
Like all participants, her goal was to win… and she did.
She earned the title everyone else was seeking.
She lost the most weight, and she took home $250,000.
But is it really a success?
Over the past few days, social media have exploded with comments criticizing Frederickson for losing too much weight, and the show for supporting this extreme weight loss. Posters are saying she went from one extreme (overweight) to another (underweight). That she looks anorexic. That she couldn’t possibly be healthy. And, that she is setting a bad example for young women. Some are even saying the show has gone too far.
Frederickson says she is thrilled with her results, is proud of the way she lost the weight, and that she followed the advice and had the support of the show’s medical team.
I’m not saying I approve, or disapprove, of her extreme weight loss.
I will say this: I don’t care for the show and therefore I choose not to watch it. I don’t support the extreme methods employed on the show because I don’t believe they are sustainable. I have my opinions about whether or not the methods used are healthy, but I am not a doctor and they are simply my opinions as someone who has worked in the health and fitness industry and has been a fitness enthusiast pretty much my entire life.
What I do think is people are forgetting this is a TV show.
A show that publicly celebrates extreme weight loss week-in and week-out (and has been doing so for 15 seasons). And, that it is a competition with a $250,000 prize.
It’s easy to judge her by the way she looks. However, nobody except Frederickson and her doctors know whether she is healthy or not.
The sad part is, she was likely judged before the show for being too heavy, and now she is being judged for being too thin.
What this really illuminates is the impact of reality television and social media on our society.
According to TV Guide, here are the most-watched shows of the 2012-13 TV season. Consider how many of them are reality television shows (indicated in red).
1. NCIS CBS 21.6 million
2. SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL NBC 21.0 million
3. THE BIG BANG THEORY CBS 19.0 million
4. NCIS: LOS ANGELES CBS 17.5 million
5. PERSON OF INTEREST CBS 16.2 million
6. AMERICAN IDOL (Wednesday) Fox 15.1 million
7. DANCING WITH THE STARS (Monday) ABC 15.0 million
8. AMERICAN IDOL (Thursday) Fox 14.8 million
9. THE VOICE (Monday) NBC 14.4 million*
10. THE WALKING DEAD AMC 14.3 million
11. DANCING WITH THE STARS (Tuesday) ABC 14.0 million
12. TWO AND A HALF MEN CBS 13.9 million
13. THE VOICE (Tuesday) NBC 13.5 million
14. BLUE BLOODS CBS 13.3 million
15. ELEMENTARY CBS 13.0 million
16. MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL ESPN 12.9 million
17. MODERN FAMILY ABC 12.7 million
18. CRIMINAL MINDS CBS 12.6 million
19. THE OT Fox 12.5 million
20. CASTLE ABC 12.5 million
21 DUCK DYNASTY A&E 12.4 million
t. 60 MINUTES CBS 12.4 million
23. VEGAS CBS 12.0 million
24. THE FOLLOWING Fox 11.9 million
t. SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES CBS 11.9 million
t. CSI CBS 11.9 million
Clearly we love, and support, reality TV.
These shows would not be on the air year after year if millions of people weren’t tuning in every week. So, on some level, we have to take responsibility. We (or at least the millions who watch these shows; I am not one of them) are choosing for this type of show to continue.
Last year, I wrote about how competitive reality TV shows often inspire winning at all costs. When so much money, or the dream of future fame and fortune is on the line, people often act in ways unbecoming and do things they probably wouldn’t do in “real life.”
With social media, it’s now possible, and apparently very popular, to crucify people publicly. We’re quick to judge based on what we hear and see, often without knowing all the facts.
Do I believe Rachel Frederickson was successful?
If I’m basing my answer on whether or not she achieved her goals, then the answer has to be yes.
Am I more concerned about what this incident says about how we pursue and measure success, and the role reality TV and social media play in encouraging and amplifying negative, and often unhealthy (mentally, emotionally, and physically) and unsavory behavior ? YES!
Watch Rachel’s reveal on The Biggest Loser below.